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Maryland’s Historically Black Colleges Suing State For Funding

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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– In a bid to stay competitive with other universities, four of Maryland’s historic black colleges are suing the state.

Alex DeMetrick reports the lawsuit links the segregated past to desperately needed funding today.

Even as a system, the University of Maryland’s many colleges compete for money. They need it to fund everything from faculty to facilities in order to draw students.

The state’s historic back colleges also need funding, but claim they have been short-changed by a segregated past that continues on, in the form of less money for black colleges.

Now, they’ve gone to federal court to get money they say the state has promised.

“And they just haven’t done it,” said Michael Jones, a lawyer for the colleges filing the lawsuit. “And they’ve said that they want to do it, committed to doing it. But actions speak louder than words. So we’re filing a lawsuit to get them to try to fulfill their promises.”

Filing the suit are Morgan State University, Coppin State, Bowie State and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

The colleges claim between 1990 and 2009, they should have received $644 million in state appropriations and another $450 million to help low-income students.

The state’s position is minority students have far more opportunities today than in the past at all Maryland colleges, and that current practices are no way connected to a segregated past.

“If you look at the historical documents, they say the same thing in the ’30s and ’40s and the ’50s,” Jones said. “And then in 1991, Maryland said that they were going to fix this by providing funding that took into account the cumulative under-funding. And they just didn’t do it.”

It’s an argument here, being closely followed by the nation’s other black colleges.

The civil trial is expected to last six weeks, and will be decided by a judge rather than a jury.

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